Since its inception in 2015, the 802 Music Vermont Showcase has shined a spotlight on area musicians, bringing acts like Waylon Speed, Jatoba, Bow Thayer and Duane Carleton to the Paramount Theatre stage.
For its fifth installment, the series is changing things up by bringing together a diverse group of area musicians to celebrate the music of just one band: U2.
Billed as “802-U2: A Tribute to the ‘Joshua Tree’ Album,” the show will feature a rotating lineup of musicians performing the band’s groundbreaking “Joshua Tree” album in its entirety at 7 p.m. tonight at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland.
Released in 1987, “The Joshua Tree” marked a turning point for both U2 and rock music. The largely stripped-down album was a departure from the decade’s overproduced hair-band sound. It also launched U2 into superstardom with a string of hits, including “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “With or Without You” and “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
Thirty years later, U2 is marking the album’s anniversary with a new tour in support of it. Rutland musician and promoter George Nostrand says the tour is what inspired him to mark the occasion locally. (Nostrand is also a writer and editor for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus.)
“The Joshua Tree” holds a special place for Nostrand. He said it was influential for him when he was first honing his guitar chops. He eventually learned the entire album, and would often perform songs from it during his early open-mic days.
To help him pull off bringing the album to life, Nostrand turned to area musician and U2 fan Jonathan Czar. As the band’s musical director, Czar has been working up song arrangements and leading rehearsals ahead of the show. He will also serve as the stand-in for The Edge, as he takes on the challenge of recreating the guitarist’s unique layered, atmospheric sound.
“Czar is dialed in,” Nostrand said. “He’s got The Edge down.”
Along with Czar, a house band, including Nostrand on keyboard and guitar, Jared Johnson on bass and Ross Edmunds on drums, will hold down the groove while a number of singers get to play the role of Bono.
“The band is super tight,” Nostrand said, adding they have been rehearsing for several weeks.
“I think there are going to be some singers who are going to blow people away,” Nostrand said of the lineup, which includes familiar faces like Killington mainstays Jenny Porter and Tony Lee Thomas, recent Friday Night Live opener Chris Pallutto, singer-songwriter Kris Collet and more. Nostrand also noted several newcomers who have never before been on stage.
Like previous 802 shows, this one will be performed backstage at Paramount with the audience and band situated behind the curtain. According to Nostrand, the smaller setting creates a more intimate, club-like vibe with enough room for seats, a dance area and a bar.
Despite the shift in format, Nostrand remains committed to the series’ original mission of bringing local musicians to the Paramount Stage. “It’s a change to experience some local musicians they wouldn’t normally encounter,” he said.
And he hopes the focus on a popular band like U2 will prove to be a draw, noting that some of the Paramount’s best-attended shows have been tribute bands, like The Machine (Pink Floyd) and Let it Be (The Beatles). The bonus of this show, Nostrand said, will be introducing the audience to some great local talent while rocking out to a classic album they know and love.
The “802-U2: A Tribute to the Joshua Tree Album” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. (doors at 7) Thursday, Aug. 10, at The Paramount Theatre, 30 Center, St., Rutland. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15; call 802-775-0903, or go online to www.paramountvt.org.